Gotta say…there is nothing like running a course you haven’t done in a few years to make you realize how far you’ve come as a runner.
The first time I tackled the Providence 1/2 marathon was May 2, 2010. It was my very first half-marathon and i’d only been racing for two years. I trained hard and felt prepared going in, but there are just enough challenging spots that I still remember exactly where I struggled (Pittman St). I finished the race in 2:06:33 and felt like i’d won.
I’d go on to run it again in 2011 (even faster) and 2012 (with my aunt, as her first marathon) before taking a few years off the race. When I came back to the course in 2015, it was for the marathon, and a PR! I ran the marathon again in 2016, and then took last year off of Providence.
This year, when I signed up for the half it was going to be as a time trial for the Vermont City Marathon. But fate and a sort of injury had other ideas. So when I toed the line Sunday, I had a main goal of just enjoying the race. To not run easy, but not run hard. And to just see what I had. I was FAIRLY sure I could hit sub 2:15 no problem, hoped I could go sub 2:10 and dream goal – to try to match 2010.
The weather was great – high 50’s, light breeze. A little humid, but the rain held off, so no complaints. And when I found a spot in the corral and chatted with some other runners (who I think i’ve now convinced to run Boston next year. LOL) I felt comfortable and worry-free. The race would be what it was. The time at the end didn’t really matter. It would be neither my best, nor my worst so why care.
We took off and I noticed the 2:15 pacer in front of me (I don’t think he seeded himself quite right) and had to remind myself, its mile 1, don’t try to pass him, just don’t lose him. And over the course of that mile I crept up to and past him. Phew….
I fell into a comfortable stride. I barked back at the little blonde terrier barking at the runners from a corner. I high-fived a couple adorable kids. And I listened to the conversations around me. And I tried to not look at my watch.
When we finally made it to Blackstone Boulevard, and hit mile 4 I peeked at my watch and smiled. It was sub-10 and it felt good. I admired the stunning homes along the route, I waved to spectators and after we turned the corner and past my favorite bakery I thought of my friends. I had joked with one that I hoped it wouldn’t be open when I went past. Knowing i’d stopped for a sangria during the Disney marathon she replied Don’t You Dare. LOL No worries Amanda…I was in a groove. And almost tripped over Mrs Potato Head’s eyes (a couple other runners had dressed in costume and one lost an accessory).
For the next couple miles I had some great conversations with other runners (about gatorade flavors and rear ends and how this one woman had just finished Boston a couple weeks ago and was totally taking it easy today (she and I passed each other a few times). I ran FUN. I reminded myself to not push my pace.
I legit said “Why are you running? Because races are fun. And if you aren’t having fun, you’re not doing it right”
I passed the spectator blaring the Rocky theme song, I smiled and waved at more children. And at mile 9, looked at my watch again. Still sub 10-pace. Woohoo! That would be the last time I looked at my watch.
The next four miles I remembered as the toughest terrain wise. A steep downhill, a long downhill and a couple of longer uphills. The downhill scared me more. My wonky hamstring had been doing okay this race (tho I noticed after my downhill miles were the slower ones) but going back down Gano Street had me nervous.
I wide-stepped the wicked steep downhill, cruised along the water and remembered that this stretch had been the ‘graveyard’ stretch for me my first year. I was tired at mile 10 and just hanging in there. This year, I was still running happy and free.
I hit the turn away from the water and began the long winding climb. As I tucked in and shimmied up I passed a few people and smiled. I think that was the point where I realized how much stronger i’d gotten over the years. Hills don’t scare me. I climb like a mountain goat and never get passed going up one.
So when I finally reached my arch-nemesis Pittman Street, I kinda smiled. And not just because the November Project cheer station was such a great boost. But because this year, no fear. I chugged up the hill to the top steady and strong.
Left onto Gano, and down the hill…as I neared the mile 11 marker, I heard noise and looked over to realize the marathon winner was coming by. WOW. The runners I was with started to attempt math to figure out pace. We realized at that point, 24 miles in, he’d been running about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Ummm….whoa. That guy was on pace for a 2:30 marathon, with no one even close behind him. SO impressive.
I ran through India Point Park and looked at the water, smiled and ran on to the mile 12 marker. And thought to myself, home stretch, we got this.
I didn’t try to go faster, well expect for when I saw that final photographer and went full stride for a good pic (LOL), I just ended up doing so. I remembered how hard that final mile had felt in 2010. And even in 2015 when I ran the marathon. And thought about how easy it felt in comparison this year. (It would turn out to be my fastest mile of the race – a 9:16.)
When I saw the mile 26 marker and knew there was only .2 left I just focused on finishing. Turned the corner to the finish chute and scanned the crowd a bit (knowing the hubs was probably there somewhere) and then just stared at the finish line.
Opened my stride and went for it. I flew across the finish with my arms raised. Stopped my watch, but didn’t look, got my medal and a water and then walked a few feet.
Now…I looked down, read the 2:06:50 and started to shake. And started to cry. I couldn’t believe it. My training wasn’t what I wanted. My hamstring wasn’t what I wanted. I haven’t run that fast that far in a freaking YEAR. And yet somehow, the legs remembered.
I thought of my friend who I had just asked the day before if she wanted to pace me again next year for a new marathon PR. And I mouthed “Eff Yeah!”
I headed for the hubs, feeling SO dang proud of myself. But I was about to be even prouder of him.
For while I was off kicking asphalt, so was he. My amazing husband, who has only been running for about 6 months and only run two 5k’s prior (both with me), took 3rd in his age group with an amazing 25:32 finish. Wow babe. You rock!
Once again…Providence proved it its my BFF course. And apparently, the hubs’ also.